Foot fungus, or athlete's foot (tinea pedis), is a fungal infection of the foot caused by organisms that live on the skin. These organisms thrive in warm, moist conditions, so sweaty footwear is often at the root of the problem. Once you have foot fungus, or athlete's foot, it can take a few weeks to get rid of it and the problem can easily return if you don't take steps to remedy the conditions that caused it. A strictly enforced treatment program should be used to cure foot fungus, or athlete's foot, and prevent it from returning.
What Are the Symptoms of Foot Fungus?
- Symptoms can include itching, burning and stinging sensations from a rash between the toes and on the soles of the feet.
- There may be some scaling, flaking, cracking and peeling of the skin in these areas also. Itchy blisters may also appear.
- The skin on the sides and bottom of the feet may be excessively dry. - Your toenails might become thick, ragged and discolored and they may start coming from the nail bed.
- The symptoms of foot fungus vary considerably, however. Some people may have many uncomfortable symptoms while others may have few (or none) at all.
How to Treat Athlete's Foot:
Be gentle with your feet - The initial stage of an outbreak of athlete's foot can be quite severe. If your symptoms are bad and you are suffering with oozing blisters and cracked skin, for example, rest them up and keep them open to the air. Take time off work if you need to. The inflammation of your feet is not dangerous, but it can get worse and you may get a bacterial infection as a result. It is best to take some time out to let it improve, rather than risk a further problem.
Soak your feet in a saline solution - Mix up a warm salty foot bath and soak your feet in it for between 5 and 10 minutes. You should use 2 teaspoons of salt to each pint of water. Repeat frequently until your athlete's foot clears up. The salt not only helps to get rid of the fungus, but also reduces excessive sweating and makes the skin soft (this will let anti-fungal medications penetrate more deeply).
Use over-the-counter anti-fungal treatments - Apply one of these 2 or 3 times daily. You should cover the whole affected area lightly and then gently rub the medication in. Do this for at least 4 weeks, or until 2 weeks after it appears that the foot fungus has gone.
Use aluminum-chloride between your toes - apply this 2 or 3 times daily using a cotton bud. Again, carry on doing so for 2 weeks after it seems like the fungal infection has gone. Aluminum-chloride kills the fungus and dries the area. This will help to prevent it from coming back. If the skin is raw and cracked, however, heal it first using an anti-fungal treatment. Otherwise the aluminum-chloride will cause unpleasant stinging on application.
Use baking soda - Foot fungus, particularly in between the toes, can be treated with a baking-soda paste. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with a little warm water (not too warm). Rub this over the affected area. Rinse and dry your feet thoroughly afterward and dust them with powder or cornflour.
Get rid of dead skin - After the athlete's foot has settled down, remove dead skin from your feet while in the bath. Lightly scrub them using a bristle scrub brush. Make sure you concentrate especially on the area between your toes. Afterward, rinse yourself off in a shower otherwise the bits of skin may cling to you and begin an infection elsewhere on your body.
Scrape under your toenails - Fungus often thrive beneath toenails so to prevent it from doing so use a wooden toothpick or match (avoid using a metal implement) to scrape under your toenails every 2 or 3 days.
How to Prevent Foot Fungus from Coming Back:
Continue medicating your feet - After the athlete's foot has disappeared, carry on applying the anti-fungal treatment that you used to treat it on a regular basis (but less often than before). Apply it once or twice a week to ward off the return of the fungal infection.
Wear shoes that don't encourage sweaty feet and trap moisture - Don't wear waterproof footwear or plastic or rubber shoes. Also tight footwear and boots should be avoided (if you have to wear boots for work, take them off as soon as possible). Footwear made from natural materials are best - leather and cotton are ideal as these allow your feet to breathe.
Change your shoes frequently - Wear an alternate pair of shoes each day, unless your feet sweat a lot, in which case change them twice a day.
Keep footwear dry, clean and aired - Air your shoes outside in the sun if you can. Also, spray, or dust, inside your footwear (every time you remove them and before putting them on) with anti-fungal sprays or powders.
Also take care with your socks - Change socks 3 or 4 times daily if your feet sweat a lot and wear only socks made from cotton. Wash socks twice in very hot water and rinse them thoroughly - washing detergents can exacerbate athlete's foot problems.
Dry your toes well and powder them - Let your feet dry in the air for 5-10 minutes after you have bathed, then dust them with talcum powder.
Take precautions in public areas - Going barefoot in places like health club changing rooms, swimming pools and gyms (where other people also go barefoot) can increase your risk if you have a tendency to get fungal infections. Wear shower shoes or some other kind of protective footwear.
If the foot rash fails to clear up you should consult a doctor. You should see your G.P. more quickly if there is excessive reddening or swelling of the feet, or if you develop a fever. People with diabetes who get the symptoms of Athlete's Foot should also see their doctor straight away.
Most people who suffer from athlete's foot should find that rigorous enforcement of these tips will work to cure and prevent their foot fungus.